Definitions Help Bring Sanity to the Cloud

The more DCIG covers various enterprise technologies, the more it sees the term “cloud” permeating the literature originating from vendors describing their products. In so doing, they use the term “cloud” very liberally to describe their products’ capabilities. To try to bring some sanity to all these occurrences of cloud that one encounters, here are some definitions that DCIG uses to assess each product’s cloud capabilities.

The Cloud May Not Mean What You Think It Means

Read any vendor’s literature and one will encounter one or more of the following phrases:

  • Our product supports the cloud.
  • Our product is cloud-enabled.
  • It offers cloud data management.

The list goes on with each cloud capability sounding more wonderful than the last. But what do each of these phrases mean? And does that meaning align with what the product alleges it does?

DCIG finds that vendors ascribe different meanings to the same cloud term when describing their products. It is so prevalent that in our internal conversations about various products and their respective cloud capabilities, we stop one another. We do this to confirm that the product delivers on our internally agreed-upon meaning of a specific term.

Ascribing Meaning to Cloud Terms

Here are the definitions of six commonly used cloud terms and phrases that we use internally to determine whether a product falls into a specific category.


If we encounter the use of the word cloud to describe a product, it means it offers a single common pool of resources, no more, no less. This is a safe term to use when describing a product. To infer the product can scale, is highly available, etc. is to grant it attributes that it may or may not possess.


This is the one cloud term that we currently deem meaningless. One can interpret this term to apply to public or private clouds. It can infer connectivity to clouds of many types. It can imply that the product possesses characteristics to enable future cloud … something. If any vendor uses this term to describe its product, ask the vendor to explain what it means in the context of its product.


This is a new term we see more frequently. We interpret this term to mean it is a software-as-a-service and is hosted in the cloud. One still needs to define who’s cloud the software is hosted in and if that cloud meets your company’s service level requirements.

Cloud Connectivity

We define this term as the product offering connectivity to a cloud storage offering such as Amazon S3 or an S3-compatible provider. These products can store files or objects with the cloud provider and retrieve them.

“Cloud Support” or “Supports the Cloud”

These two terms we define as offering support for cloud storage offerings from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, and any S3-compatible storage offering. The use of this term infers broader support for cloud storage offerings that the use of the term cloud connectivity.

Cloud Data Management

This is perhaps the cloud term that is currently most overused and abused. We currently define it as one step beyond cloud support. A product that offers cloud data management can connect to multiple cloud storage offerings and manage the storage features within each cloud storage offering. In the case of AWS, it can connect to Amazon S3 and then manage data placement across its various storage tiers. The more cloud storage offerings to which it can connect and storage tiers it can manage within them, the more robust the product is.

Defining Cloud Terms is an Imperative

Regardless of whether you agree with DCIG’s definition of these cloud terms, this post should highlight the importance of defining commonly used cloud terms. As we have found internally, failure to do so can quickly result in miscommunication and misunderstandings. DCIG’s analysts take existing definitions and we either use them or adapt them to better equip us to perform our analysis.
Even if you must come up with your own definitions for these terms, the sooner you do so, the better. These will equip you in the same way to understand the differences between products in the market, ask the right questions about them, and make better choices about cloud offerings.

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